Iron giant
April 4, 2005 7:45 AM   Subscribe

How do I get more iron in my diet?

I am a vegetarian runner and everyone tells me I'll run better if I have more iron in my body. But I can't take pills. Well, I can take then but then I immediately vomit them back up. What are some good ways besides overloading on spinach to get some more iron?
posted by ohio to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Blackstrap molasses are full of iron, legumes, leafy green vegetables (kale, brocolli)...the choices are many and delicious :-)
posted by ataraxian at 7:47 AM on April 4, 2005

cook in cast iron pans. or there are suppliments you can take.
posted by crunchland at 7:50 AM on April 4, 2005

When my iron count was low, my doctor told me that Cream of Wheat has a lot of iron. Good news if you happen to like Cream of Wheat as much as I do.
posted by scratch at 7:52 AM on April 4, 2005

Raisins are good. Iron frying pans are good (and fairly cheap).
There are liquid iron supplements available that you could try.
posted by cushie at 7:55 AM on April 4, 2005

I therefore conclude that you should make raisin cream of wheat in a cast iron frying pan. You'll be positively magnetic!
posted by Capn at 7:58 AM on April 4, 2005

red beans, spinach, horse steaks if you're not vegetarian
posted by matteo at 8:05 AM on April 4, 2005

Don't know if you have a drink called Irn Bru "Made in Scotland from girders"
posted by brettski at 8:08 AM on April 4, 2005

If you're a man (and I have no idea if you are or not), don't even try to take iron supplements unless your doctor specifically tells you to.

But green leafy vegetables are never a bad idea. Beet greens sometimes have so much iron that they taste metallic.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:10 AM on April 4, 2005

Oatmeal is high in iron. Also, you need to make sure you're absorbing the iron you ingest. Vitamin C helps with absorption, but caffeine hinders it.
posted by hazyjane at 8:10 AM on April 4, 2005

Spinach, raisins, leafy greens and molasses are what I use to keep my iron level up. There are also foods you can sneak in to other foods like wheat germ [sneak into applesauce/yogurt/granola], pumpkin seeds [salt, roast and eat] and prune juice [toss some in a smoothie and you won't taste it]. Remember that any cooked dish you make can have either added spinach which you can chop up and toss in like herbs in soup or risotto, or added wheat germ [roughage!]. Here's a list that includes some suggestions that aren't all meat-based and this article has a lot of strategies for getting hte most out of the iron you do intake, especially for vegetarians.
posted by jessamyn at 8:10 AM on April 4, 2005

Have you gotten a blood test to see what your iron levels are? That would be a good starting point- maybe iron isn't the problem.
posted by elisabeth r at 8:18 AM on April 4, 2005

Plant sources of iron are not as easily absorbed by the body as animal sources of iron. You can "fix" this by taking vitamin C along with your plant iron. In other words, put orange slices into your spinach salad or drizzle lemon vinaigrette over your broccoli.
posted by plinth at 8:21 AM on April 4, 2005

Key idea: Always try to eat iron-containing foods with other foods or juices which contain Vitamin C (potatoes, apples, OJ, red peppers). Vitamin C dramatically increases the amount of iron you absorb.

The same is true of supplements. Taking iron supplements with OJ will help. But also, commercial iron supplements are nothing more than tiny granules of iron (the same thing coming off the cast iron pans you cook in). They can be harder for the body to break down and absorb. For the most effective iron supplements, visit a natural-foods store and find one made with blood extract. I know that's disgusting, but as a former anemic, I also know it works. Anyway, you can feel good about making use of a byproduct of the meatpacking industry that would otherwise go to waste.
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on April 4, 2005

How is it you're running poorly? If you're suffering energy problems, it might also be from a B-vitamin deficiency (especially B-12). Just a thought.
posted by Tuwa at 9:15 AM on April 4, 2005

A lot of really excellent ideas here, I like making trail mix with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and cashews (and whatever else looks appealing that day), and I make my own oatmeal.

However, I also second getting some blood work done before you go nuts on the supplements and diet enhancements. I've been a vegetarian for nigh eight years and spent half a year in high school being mildly anemic (boarding school, shitty food). Recently, I've been feeling sort of the same sluggishness but my blood work up came back as being deficient in B12, with more than enough iron. My point being, you might have plenty of iron in your system as is, and it's not safe to OD long term on iron (liver damage, ick).

I also traditionally vomit up vitamin pills. Recently though, with this B12 thing, I've found if I take my pill with juice or milk about 10 minutes after a bowl of high fibre cereal, and then eat a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter, it does the trick and keeps the bugger down. Some routine like that might do the trick!
posted by nelleish at 9:15 AM on April 4, 2005

Mix chopped, fresh spinach into everything you cook. It usually helps the flavor, gives you roughage and, most importantly, iron.
posted by Doohickie at 9:22 AM on April 4, 2005

Both times I've been pregnant, I haven't been able to take prenatal vitamins because of the high iron content - they make me so nauseated I throw up. I've gotten around this by taking a double dose of children's chewable multivitamins, with my midwives' approval. Always on a full stomach though, or they make me feel sicky (usually not to the point of vomiting, though). You may not need the double dose.
posted by Melinika at 9:57 AM on April 4, 2005

I second the children's chewable. Vitamins make me very, very sick, but the children's chewables don't cause me a bit of nausea. You may only need to take one; I only take one and I'm a runner, too.
posted by peep at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2005

Here's the vegetarian iron bomb -- eat this once a week and you'll be set.

Make a nice bean chili (nonheme iron in beans) with tomato sauce and even a tiny bit of OJ in it (vitamin C helps with absorption) in a cast-iron pot. You might even throw in some blackstrap molasses. Eat it with a bunch of greens for the extra B vitamins in there.

This is an excellent recipe.

Beats the hell out of commercial vitamins both in terms of absorption and tastiness.
posted by jennyjenny at 11:48 AM on April 4, 2005

I realized that my (vegetarian) diet was lacking in iron a while ago. A bowl of Grape Nuts (1/2 cup = 90% of your DRV of iron, and a normal serving is way more than 1/2 cup) with a glass of OJ in the morning cleared that right up.
posted by Who_Am_I at 3:50 PM on April 4, 2005

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